Saturday, December 19, 2015
Dawn to Dusk (come for all or just part of the day)
Looking for a new holiday tradition? Why not spend a wonderful winter day with fellow birders counting our fine-feathered friends. There are two ways to participate: you can be either a field or feeder counter. No experience necessary. All counters are invited back to the Riveredge barn to compile data, swap stories and enjoy a potluck dinner at the end of the day. Contact Mary Holleback at 262-416-1224 or firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.
Here is the summary from the 2014 CBC.
What is the CBC?
The Christmas Bird Count (CBC), is the world’s oldest and largest wildlife survey conducted by amateurs. Frank Chapman, an ornithologist for the American Museum of Natural History, was concerned about declining bird populations. He proposed the first count as a humane alternative to the then popular Christmas Side-Hunts. During these hunts groups of ‘sportsmen’ would divide into teams and would fan out through the countryside “killing” practically everything with fur or feathers that crossed their path” (Chapman, 1900). Those with the most “kills” won and were written up in sporting magazines. The first Christmas Bird Count took place Dec. 25, 1900 and was conducted by 27 people who censused 26 localities (in 13 states in the U.S. & 2 Canadian provinces). Wisconsinite Alexander Wetmore from Sauk County participated in that first count in Wisconsin. He later went on to become the secretary of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. Frank Chapman became the editor of Bird-Lore, Audubon’s first birding journal.
Today there are nearly 2000 count areas in the U.S. with 102 of them being in Wisconsin. Nationwide there are more than 50,000 people who volunteer for this annual census. Data collected by these counters, over time, can provide valuable insights into the long-term health of bird populations and the environment. It can also show the effects of seed crop fluctuations, weather, and the influence of humans on the abundance and distribution of birds.
Ten days before or after Christmas, people working in small groups travel on foot and by car exploring a variety of habitats within a 15-mile diameter circle (177 square miles). Counters try to cover as much of the circular area as possible within a 24-hour calendar day, counting each individual bird and species they see or heard. In some count areas representatives from each counting group meet at the end of the day to compile the data collected. Bird feeders within the circle are censused by counters too.
Each year, millions of birds are reported during the Christmas Bird Count from the combined 50 states and Canadian provinces. Among the most common sightings are American crows, robins (over 2 million), house sparrows, black-capped chickadees, Canada geese, and blue jays. A another opportunity to survey birds is Project Feeder Watch sponsored by Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Visit www.birds.cornell.edu/pfw for more information.
The History of the Riveredge Christmas Bird Count
There are two counts held simultaneously in Wisconsin at Christmas time. One count is coordinated by the National Audubon Society and the other by the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology (W.S.O.). Riveredge participates in W.S.O.’s Count every year.
According to old issues of the Passenger Pigeon, (W.S.O.’s birding journal) in 1968 (and for a number of years previous to that), there was a “Cedarburg” count in Ozaukee County. The center of that count circle was the intersection of highways 141 & 33. The count was still called the Cedarburg Count in 1969 when Riveredge began coordinating the count in this area. That year there were 11 observers who together clocked 50 hours counting birds in the field. Among those birders were Andy Larsen, Mary Donald, Roger Borner, Millicent Ficken, Jim Grootemat, Dona Hodgson, and Mona Simpson. Some of those people are still participating in our annual Christmas Bird Count.
The 1970 Count occurred on Jan. 3, 1971 but it did not get reported to the Passenger Pigeon. In 1971 & ‘72 the count name changed to the “Saukville Count.” Thereafter, from 1973 to 1976 it became known as the “Newburg Count.” It wasn’t until 1977 that the count actually became known as the “Riveredge Count.”
Today our results are published in the Passenger Pigeon, the quarterly journal of the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology. We do not send our data into the National Audubon Society because they charge a per-counter fee to support the publication of a special yearly count issue of the American Birds magazine.
Our Count Area
The Riveredge Count covers an area 15 miles in diameter bounded by Hurias Lake (northeast of Little Kohler) to the north, Cedarburg to the south, the West Bend Airport to the west, and Port Washington Harbor to the east. The center of our circle is Lakeland Road and Highway 33. This area is divided into roughly 25 sections, each of which is assigned to a team of birders.